2001 : WHAT QUESTIONS HAVE DISAPPEARED?

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Professor of Computer Science, Columbia University; coauthor, Complexity and Information
Have We Seen the End of Science? Will the Internet Stock Bubble Burst?

I am taking the liberty of sending two questions. (After all, the people on the list like to push the boundaries.)

"Have We Seen the End of Science?"

John Horgan announced the end of science in his book of the same title. Almost weekly the most spectacular advances are being announced and intriguing questions being asked in fields such as biology and physics. The answer was always a resounding no; now nobody asks the question.

"Will the Internet Stock Bubble Burst?"

We certainly know the answer to that one now.

On February 22, 2000 I gave a talk at the Century Association in NYC titled "Modern Finance and Computers". One of the topics that i covered was "will the internet stock bubble burst?" I said it was a classic bubble and would end in the usual way. I cited the example of an Fall, 1999 IPO for VA Linux. This was a company that had a market capitalization of 10 billion dollars at the end of the first day even though it had never shown a profit and was up against competitors such as Dell and IBM.

The NASDAQ reached its high on March 10, 2000, and the internet sector collapsed a couple of weeks later. The high for VA Linux in 2000 was $247;yesterday it closed below $10.

JOSEPH F. TRAUB is the Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He was founding Chairman of the Computer Science Department at Columbia University from 1979 to 1989, and founding chair of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academy of Sciences from 1986 to 1992. From 1971 to 1979 he was Head of the Computer Science Department at Carnegie-Mellon University. Traub is the founding editor of the Journal of Complexity and an associate editor of Complexity. A Festschrift in celebration of his sixtieth birthday was recently published. He is the author of nine books including the recently published Complexity and Information.